Captain Smuts hails his EP warriors

Jon Jon Smuts of Eastern Province celebrates during the 2016 Africa T20 Cup

Jon Jon Smuts of Eastern Province celebrates during the 2016 Africa T20 Cup

TRIUMPHANT Eastern Province captain Jon-Jon Smuts has hailed his team’s positive mindset and “no fear” attitude in this season’s Africa T20 Cup.

Smuts led from the front with a superb all-round performance in Saturday’s live televised final at the Oudtshoorn Recreation Ground which paved the way for the 31-run victory over a gallant Northern Cape side. The EP skipper smashed 40 runs off just balls (5x4, 2x6) and then completed the job with 2 wickets for just 22 runs.

But in the true spirit of a good skipper, Smuts preferred to shower his teammates with praise in helping EP to annex their maiden Africa T20 Cup title instead of claiming the personal glory.

“I am happy (personal performance) but we came here as a team,” Smuts said. “We had many match-winning performances throughout the team and played well as a team.

“We have had this ‘no fear’ campaign throughout the Africa T20 Cup and I’m glad we played that way right up to and including the final. It’s great to see it finished off that way as well.”

Although Smuts finished as the tournament’s second highest run-scorer with 196 runs at average of 49.00, which included the tournament’s only century in the opening game of Pool D last weekend against Gauteng at Boland Park, the EP title march was certainly not a one-man crusade.

The Eastern Province bowling unit were sensational throughout and certainly displayed their skill and mental strength in the final. They were superbly led by pace bowlers Sisanda Magala (12 wickets at an average of 8.91) and Solo Nqweni (11 wickets at average of 6.27) who finished as the leading wicket-takers in the series.

The pair were particularly good with their opening spells as they both picked up crucial early wickets, but then also came back to close out the match with excellent yorkers and slower ball variations at the backend of the innings.

The skipper could not hide his pleasure at what Magala, Nqweni and the rest of the EP bowling unit have achieved over the past fortnight.

“I think this wicket slowed down the longer the match went on, but our bowling has gone from strength to strength. The guys have really executed their plans perfectly. We really executed well, they have been unbelievable” Smuts said.

Eastern Province are the second winners of the Africa T20 Cup after Northerns won the inaugural title at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein last year.